“The best piece of advice I’ve ever had on professional writing was from James Harding, then editor of The Times, when I joined as a leader writer in 2008. The big news story was the banking crisis. I knew the technical details very well and wrote many columns on the same subject. They weren’t very good.
James, having listened to me in the leader conference one day, urged me to write down what I’d just said — literally what I’d said and how I’d said it, instead of trying to affect a tone of gravity appropriate to the subject. Writing as if you’re having a conversation with someone who knows at least as much as you do, but different things, is a valuable corrective to the curse of knowledge. As a guide to writing, it’s more useful than following made-up rules about when to use less and fewer, or hanged and hung, and the rest of the pedants’ catechism.”